From being a platform for making friends to a melting pot of views and opinions, social media has transformed the way newsrooms and newsmakers interacted with the world in 2013. And, with the exponential growth of affordable smart devices, this transition is set to expand further.
From the outrage following the December 2012 gangrape in India to the coronation of Pope Francis, paying tributes to Nelson Mandela, to “selfies” of Barrack Obama and James Camaron, the year saw social media push the boundaries of protests, mourning and self-promotion. Gone are the days when having a profile on Facebook was considered being socially active. The youth today is catching up with friends on Facebooks, Twitter, BBM, Whatsapp and a plethora of apps from their PCs, mobile phones and tablets.
As this seamless mix of sociology and technology morphed into a powerful platform for public's engagement with the government, policy makers also logged on to gauge public views and looking for a stronger connect with the “aam aadmi”. Analysts expect political parties in the country to make greater use of social media for their election campaigns to increase voter support, especially among the youth.
The new year will see further expansion of this medium as companies making salt to software use this platform to advertise their products, services and connect with customers. Advertisers are taking an integrated cross-channel approach across social media and traditional channels, while brands are turning to it for providing customer service and support.
“In 2014, we expect more brands to recognise that digital is not a channel that is fitted into existing thinking, it needs a new way of thinking. Marketers are expected to invest more in data capabilities to understand the performance of their digital campaigns,” SapientNitro Co-Global Deliver Lead and Sapient India MD Rajdeep Endow said. However, the ever increasing rhetoric around surveillance and snooping of Internet, which left its indelible mark on companies and users, in 2013 forced tech firms like Facebook, Twitter, Google, Yahoo and LinkedIn to beef up encryption to secure users' data.
The issue of cyber snooping, thanks to Edward Snowden's revelations of surveillance of Internet users by governments, led to worldwide criticism and protests forcing tech firms to secure their web traffic in a bid to reassure their users. It was a big year for social media, which saw Twitter going public, Snapchat rejecting a USD 3 billion offer from Facebook and hockey-stick type growth curve of messaging apps like Whatsapp and Line pushing advertisers to reach their target audiences via social networks on mobile devices.
Social media watchers expect 2014 to be action-packed as everyone from the common man to politicians to brands work on making their social presence bigger and more effective. Business communications trends that one is likely to see in 2014 will be the focus on grabbing consumer attention and use of mobile and predictive tools.
The new year will be about effective understanding and then reaching out to the more defined audience. Analysts expect social platforms to help brands in classifying users based on their consumption patterns and then creating new revenue models in the process. Advertisers are already making ads for the social media audience.
Increased use of mobile phones to access the Internet and make financial transactions is also another interesting trend. “Customers today are more comfortable with transacting not just online but also through their mobile phones. This year, we have seen a huge traction of not just viewing traffic but also purchases happening through mobile phones on our platform,” Snapdeal CEO Kunal Bahl said. Mobile phones account for about 40 per cent of the time spent on social media, which includes Facebook, Twitter and so on. Given the exponential growth of mobile devices, it is expected to rise further.